Launching and scaling a business comes with a great many sacrifices, and it's no surprise many of these concessions start at home. As founders, we reprioritize our family, friends, and unrelated personal interests -- all in the name of capturing opportunity and market share.
While the eternal hustle can serve as a source of personal accomplishment, several new statistics point to the fact that many of us are deeply struggling to find balance between ourselves as CEOs and as, well, actual people. A 2015 study from the University of California at San Francisco, for example, found entrepreneurs are twice as likely as the general population to report suffering from depression.
Since starting my entrepreneurial journey in 2017, I've frequently found myself caught between the strain of working through an endless to-do list and the burdensome anxiety of leaving it unattended in hopes of "unplugging." Worse yet, yo-yoing between these two disciplines left me feeling too exhausted to fully capitalize on my periods of either work or play.
I found that, as with most things in life, a balanced approach brought me the greatest satisfaction in both my business and personal life. And while nobody can avoid the occasional yo-yo, I've found a few practices helpful in shifting my perspective:
1. Create a routine.
One of the most exhausting parts of balancing work and life are the multitude of tiny prioritization decisions: Should you be working on that new product launch, or should you be grabbing coffee with a friend? Create a simple daily routine that carves out time for both your personal and work priorities. For example, each morning I take at least 15 minutes for an exercise or stretching routine, and following that I make sure to leave an hour to dig into my inbox. I don't feel resentful or stressed about either of those activities, because they're already built into my schedule.
2. Find your peak hours.
You know when you do your best work. Focus your professional responsibilities during that time, and save your "off hours" for leisure. I'm a morning person, so I'll often start work around 7 a.m. I work more efficiently and feel more satisfied with my output during the first half of the day, and by the time I start to slow down, I can transition into more restorative activities, like going for a walk or catching up on some reading.
3. Embrace work friends.
While great friends and family will be eager to support you throughout your work's highs and lows, unloading your entrepreneurial stressors on them can leave you feeling isolated or even burdensome. Build meaningful relationships with fellow founders who can relate to what you're dealing with. I often rely on these bonds to work through upcoming challenges and swap resources around entrepreneurship.
4. Try something new.
If you're feeling burned out, adding another activity to your to-do list might be the last thing on your mind. That said, finding a new creative outlet (whether it's learning a language or testing out your photography skills) can refresh your perspective on the balance between work and play.
5. Be honest.
Work-life balance isn't a lesson you learn once. It's a daily practice that requires checking in on a regular basis. Choose to be honest with yourself about how you're holding up, and acknowledge that there's no universal formula for happiness. Define what balance means to you, and hold yourself to that.